Discoveries made by extraordinary people have shaped the world as we know it today and our Tyndall alumni are no exception. They embody the scientific legacy of Tyndall and continue to make a difference and ripples of impact throughout their careers.
Today, we are proud to feature Dr Beth Massey, Former Head of Research at the International Energy Research Centre (IERC), Tyndall, who is now leading an incredibly talented team of data scientists at The Energy Authority (Florida) as Director of Connected Analytics. Beth’s team provides data analytics solutions to utility companies to optimise their Advance Metering Infrastructure (AMI) data analytics.
Beth has had an exciting career to date, marked by some monumental milestones along the way. Early on in her career, she successfully completed an MSc in Software Engineering and made it her mission to land a role with one of the most sought after employers in the US - NASA. Working as a software engineer at NASA, Beth had the opportunity to work on an exciting project called 'the next generation of the shuttle launch control system'. Next on her career bucket list was completing her PhD and heading up a research group in Europe. Deeply passionate about travel as well as research, she described this unique experience as a real privilege.
What is your current role and how different is it from your role in Tyndall?
In May 2020 I joined The Energy Authority as Director of their Connected Analytics group. In this role I lead a team of data scientists and data engineers that provide innovative data-driven solutions to the unique challenges faced by public power.
The biggest difference in this role from my time at the IERC at Tyndall is that the focus of the IERC was to look at the value chain and relevant applications in the demand side of the sector including market developers and technology providers, customers and utilities; whereas in this current role our focus is on the public-owned utility sector.
How did your time at Tyndall progress your career?
The remit of the IERC is to combine industry objectives with research ambition within the broader energy sector and bring to bear the results of this collaboration into technology, policy and consumer needs.
Being at Tyndall gives us the freedom to really focus on the research and to grow the next generation of researchers and research leaders in the energy field.
I also learned a great deal about how the operations and business development side of that type of business works. These operational and programmatic skills are what I use most every day in my new job with the focus of growing a business and building a team.
What inspired you to pursue a career in research?
Research is, by definition, on the cutting edge.
To make big impacts we have to take risks (hopefully, educated ones).
Discovering and understanding those previously ‘unknown unknowns’ is one of the most exciting aspects of what researchers do. The end result being to make a contribution to the body of science and knowledge.
Big challenges await us as researchers, including how we take the research results and apply them into real world situations. Not just for commercial purposes, but to find ways to enhance the daily quality of life. With today’s superfast communication platforms and shifting technology landscapes, we are literally watching state-of-art and state-of-the-practice unfold within our hands.
The IERC held an outreach event during engineers’ week in 2019 for a group of primary school students to talk about what a day in the life of a researcher looks like. It was a collaboration with other research groups in Tyndall and Gas Networks Ireland. There was a Lego farm and a video about green gas buses and the kids absolutely loved it! They asked so many questions that we ran way past lunch, but nobody seemed to notice. Their wonder and their insightful questions said so much about the relevance of the work at Tyndall.
What’s your advice for those following in your footsteps?
Take every opportunity that comes your way, even if it might take you out of your comfort zone. Take especially those opportunities that seem a bit risky and a little too ‘big’. In the end, I never want to look back and ask myself, ‘should I have’? I want to look back and say, ‘I did that, and it worked, or it didn’t. But I tried and now I know.’
Who or whom inspires you and why?
Of the many people that I have been blessed to have in my life as inspiration 2 people stand out.
Firstly, my mother was an amazing mix of intelligence and pragmatism. When asked for advice on a how to make a good decision, she was famous for saying (to our family anyway), ‘how does this decision impact your life and will it make you feel better about yourself tomorrow?’.
She lived as she talked with a deep work ethic and a strong sense of family and community.
Secondly, Professor Donald Knuth, is someone that, as a student of Computer Science, I read many of his textbooks for classes. It wasn’t until I had the rare privilege to meet him in person, when he gave a lecture at University College Cork (UCC) in November 2015, that I realised his great personal faith in God and how he frames many of his accomplishments within the context of his beliefs. To me, Professor Knuth is one of the best embodiments of science and faith.
How do you like to spend your personal-time?
As much as possible I like to spend my personal time with my husband Carlos in the outdoors. We like living in Florida – the weather offers options for outside activities and we like to travel. So much has changed since the outbreak with cancelled travel plans and isolations. Living in Florida near the beach gives us options. We are truly blessed.
If you weren’t doing the job you’re doing now, what would you be doing?
It would be doing something in which I could help others and stay in the science and technology fields. I believe strongly in progressing STEM education for young people.
What’s a motto you live by?
There are 3 attributes that I believe are most important:
Energy – staying healthy to perform your best;
Integrity – doing the right thing even when no one is looking and recognising how what you do impacts those around you;
Intelligence – this is not about being a ‘smarty pants’, rather it is about putting in the work that results in an excellent delivery.
2020 has been a challenging year for many and some have taken it as a time to reflect. What would your own learnings be from 2020?
Reflecting on 2020 means to be aware of people and systems that, in the past, would otherwise have gone un-noticed.The amount of resources and essential services that have been marshalled to develop a COVID-19 vaccine that puts us on the verge of global vaccine dissemination is nothing short of miraculous.
I have also reflected on the privilege to live in a developed country during this pandemic. Here in the United States we have a robust network of people that have kept the food, water and energy supplies moving and health services available, which has allowed many of us to adjust our lives to continue to work from home or in flexible shifts. Yes, it is true that the virus has had devastating effects on families and businesses.This is very sad and discouraging and frightening. But because of the work of millions of essential personnel, many people in the US have been merely inconvenienced. This is not the case with the millions of people in developing countries, including children, who do not have access to food, clean water or shelter.
Instead of feeling sorry that we are unable to attend in-person dinners and visit with friends, I am focused on what we have. We have our health. We have time to spend with each other in less frenetic and scheduled ways.We can appreciate what ‘normal’ really is and look forward to having it again. I have time to count my blessings including my family and my faith. Mostly, I think 2020 has made me realise that many of my biggest dreams can still happen, (although maybe not in my original timeframe). It has also made me realise that every day is a new chance to do something unique and exciting.